nine years

Nine years ago today, I decided I had to start a librar* blog. I’d been reading blogs for a few months, and in 2005, that seemed like more than enough of reason to be expert enough to do one of my own. And I have never lacked for things to say.

It turned out to be an excellent time to start a blog in libraryland. The biblioblogosphere had an old guard, to be sure, but it was small enough that it seemed possible to read all the blogs you could ever want to, and it was even possible to meet most of the people whose blogs you read at the first ever OCLC Blog Salon. (It was such fun, as you can tell from my eloquent contribution. It was the sort of thing where people took silly pictures and made elaborate inside jokes.) It wasn’t that long ago, but it feels like another lifetime.

I look back at my early entries and often cringe, as one does when coming across versions of oneself from long ago, particularly when one was in a slathering puppy dog sort of developmental stage, as I was when I was in library school. I believed in many things that I no longer believe in now.

I no longer believe in the dream of the single search box. I think that the truth of searching is that finding things is hard. It’s hard not because it requires you to remember whether enter a * or a ? as a wildcard (though that is hard, too) but because it requires you to develop habits of mind, to think about ideas in conversation and in community, and to think about how other people might think about something in order to find what they have to say about it. Certainly we can make search interfaces better, but we cannot — and should not — make them do the work of a human mind.

I no longer believe that every library and every library person should of course start a blog. I’m not sure I ever quite believed that, but certainly I would have encouraged it. It had not yet occurred to me at that time that not everyone does have something to say, or that they do not have something to say all the time, or that they do not have it as an institution, or that they might have several other things of more pressing and immediate concern, such as why are some people suddenly not getting overdue notices in the new system.

But I also look back and am pleased. I care now as I did then about library services in extreme temperatures, and I have advocated for my city to publicize the library as a place to warm up or cool off. I still talk to people about how the world is not flat. what for and for what? remains perhaps my all-time favorite post about sources of information (and it includes, I now notice, a lovely combination of what I’d been reading at the time both in print — in fact, I got my copy of Victor Navasky’s book at ALA that year, where I also go to hear him speak — and online).

I don’t agree with everything I’ve said here, but I’m strangely proud to have kept on doing it, albeit sporadically, all these years. Thanks for reading and writing along with me.